Life Isn’t the Same: How I’m Changed for the Better!

My health situation has been going on for about a decade now, dating back to my senior year in high school. And in those 10 years, there has been a lot of ups and downs when it comes to my health. I mentioned in my last post that the situation had popped up again after a couple of years of dormancy. So the last couple weeks or so, I have spent my time trying to figure out how to approach, and beat it, once again. I had come through it before, so what did I do before that helped me and how could I repeat those same steps in order to get those same results?

Unfortunately, the process is not that easy. Life has changed so much, and within that, I have changed with it. If I had to sum it up in a couple of words, I would say that I have become more fluid and more adaptable to the fickleness of life. With that fluidness and adaptability, it has allowed me the opportunity to revisit important facets of my life. My sense of normalcy has become ever evolving, and it seems like I am finding a “new normal” all the time. My new normal as of a couple weeks ago is dealing with my health situation while still trying to give off the impression of living an ordinary life.

While I still am keeping the details of my situation close to the vest, I do want to share the lessons I have been taught, the ways I’ve changed, and some reflections I have looking back.

Appreciation

One thing I am really thankful to my health for, is the constant appreciation of life. I don’t take one single thing for granted anymore. I wake up, and I am thankful that I am able to see another day. I see the sun shining bright, and I am thankful to be able to experience the blue skies. I see my family, and I am thankful to have a family that cares for me. I see my friends, and I am thankful that I have people who choose to be in my life, and vice versa. So even though I don’t always show it or express it, there is never a day that goes by anymore that I don’t say to myself, “I am thankful”.

Compassion

I feel like I have always been able to empathize with people. My background of living overseas allowed me at an early age to understand that I came from a fortunate background and that there are people in the world that have it so much harder than I ever could imagine. But when my health issues started a decade ago, that empathy turned into compassion. My outlook on others and things they may be going through was heightened. When I see someone tweet or post in an IG story that they are struggling with something, I always try to reach out to let them know I am here for them and am a willing ear if they ever should choose to confide in me. I know how it can feel to be alone with things or feel like no one cares, so I will always try to let them know that I care, even when you feel no one else does.

Time

Probably the most immediate thing that changed once my initial diagnosis back in 2009 was my perception of time. I was only 18 years old and I was in that mindset of being so young that death never really enters your mind yet. That all changed in the summer of 2009 because my life span was something that I thought about every single day. I was so ignorant of what I was dealing with and the only logical conclusion was that there’s not a lot of life left. Obviously, and thankfully, I was wrong about that as I learned more about what I was dealing with and how I could still function and live a normal life despite what I was working through. But my point remains in that I have such a value for time now. It sort of coincides with my “appreciation” mention above, in that I appreciate the time in the days now and how I know how futile life can be if you don’t take advantage of the time you have on this earth. It can be taken away at any second, so I would advise to live that way. Take chances, be spontaneous, get out of your comfort zone, try new things that scare you.. Something I feel I have done a better job at recently. Let’s hope it continues!

Inner Strength

I am in the fitness industry, so my life revolves around health and fitness and maintaining that. I would certainly say I am strong guy relatively speaking in terms of being able to lift heavy weight and move it around here and there. But when it comes to illness, specifically the one I am dealing with, that physical strength only goes so far. Mental and emotional strength is just as important as physical strength. When you’re tested mentally, emotionally and physically all at once, you become stronger than you ever thought you could be. I am a better person as a result of my health and life-altering changes that I’ve shared. I no longer have to prove myself to others. I now know what I can handle. I’ve been through it and beat it before, I know I will overcome it again!

Peace Amidst the Storm

So, I know when I started this blog I promised myself and those who chose to read this, that I would be transparent with what goes on in my life. Yet I find myself struggling to be open about a life-changing circumstance that had just come up and want to go back into my shell and deal with it without much of anyone on the outside knowing. However, I know that that is the worst thing I could do because keeping all of that inside is not good for the soul and it will eat me up, inside to outside, until there is nothing left but my bare bones.

With all that said, I will make a concession and be open to my readers about what challenge I am currently facing without going into full details, just because I am not ready for that quite yet. The main point of me writing this is just to talk about finding an internal peace amidst the current storm surrounding me at this moment.

The last few weeks I haven’t quite been feeling myself. My body feels fatigued even with increased rest, my irritability has been on edge more than I can ever remember, my headaches are no longer relieved by common medicine, and constant nausea without the vomiting.

In one of my very first posts on here, I talked about a health issue that started in high school and followed me throughout college but in recent years had subsided. After multiple doctors visits and tests, it seems as if that issue is back. It honestly feels like a gut punch and my heart is stuck in my stomach. I had been doing extremely well physically, feeling the best I have felt in a long time, and improving daily. So for this issue to haunt me again definitely is a trying time.

But my post isn’t about lamenting the challenges ahead, it’s about staying calm and finding that internal peace as I face these challenges head on with my head up and my faith strong.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
—Isaiah 26:3

That verse is one that I will be repeating to myself every morning for the foreseeable future as a reminder of the One I have in my corner. The One who will see me through this as He sees me through everything else I have ever faced. This is an opportunity to put into practice what I claim to preach and believe. Not only saying these words, but letting them consume me wholeheartedly and without push back.

I say all that knowing there will be days that is easier said than done. I won’t sit here and claim to be an expert on trusting God through every trial, but I can say that on those more trying days, I won’t have anything else left but to ask God to help me trust in Him more and in that is where my peace is found.

It’s so easy to be at peace when there is nothing but blue skies and a sun shining on you, but how you react when there are raging waves and dark clouds over you is the true testament to where you are at in your faith. So for me, I am not looking at my current health situation as an adverse one, but one of opportunity. Opportunity to show my growth as a person, to show my growth in how I handle tough situations, and most importantly to show my growth in my faith.

I am believer in what is after this life, where we are delivered to heaven and out of the worldly struggles we face. But until we get to that point, I am also a believer in being sustained and strengthened as we await our eternal home. “When your suffering discourages you, your soul is groaning for heaven. When you feel internally unsettled by the evils, injustices, and tragedies of this world, your inner being is homesick, longing to be where you belong—a place free from suffering and heartbreak.”

I eventually will get there one day, but until then I know God has my back, and no matter what happens with this next chapter in life, He is with me throughout this process, and that gives me all the peace I need.

Embrace Rejection

Image result for embracing rejection

Some of you reading this know I recently had a job interview for a position that I felt would really catapult me into the next chapter of my fitness & wellness career. I was so confident I would get this job because I aced that interview, got along with the people I was being interviewed by, and I felt I had all the answers they were looking for. I was a shoo-in for this position… until I wasn’t. Not even 48 hours later, I was told they were going into another direction. They said they didn’t think I was ready for the position at this particular location, and all I could think about when hearing that is, “NO ONE is more ready for this position than me.”

Fair to say I was disappointed, more than I let on. The people who tried to comfort me, encourage me, or tell me that I’ll get ’em next time.. I just shrugged them off acting like it was no big deal. Truth is, it was a big deal for me. I was, still am, legitimately let down that I did not get this job. What felt strange to me was how MUCH I was feeling this disappointment. There have been plenty of jobs I applied for that I wanted and did not get that disappointed me, but something was different this time around.

Thank God for therapy and being able to talk it out because I was struggling internally for a few days after the fact. And to cut it short, there are a myriad of reasons for why I felt how I felt. But one that I really wanted to write about because I know a lot of people can relate, is the feeling of rejection.

Not just the rejection of not getting this job, but the number of rejections I have had within the last month or so have really taken a hit on my self-esteem to the point that not getting this job was the final drop that overflowed my proverbial cup.

There have been friendship rejections, where the effort to hang/see/talk to a friend is not reciprocated, familial rejections that I should keep private, professional rejections in regards to not only not getting the job, but as far as my role in my current position. So the culmination of all these factors led to me being down a little bit the last few days.

And I think one of my biggest flaws is that when I am feeling the extreme of a certain emotion, it really shows. If I am supremely happy then obviously that is a great thing! But when I have been down in the dumps the last few days, it shows in my interactions with other people and I unfortunately take my frustrations out on people who do not deserve it. I am not proud of that, and as much as I keep telling myself to change, it goes to show me that there is a long way to go.

So that is why I am writing this particular blog tonight. For one, to allow myself to vent out the remaining frustration and disappointment I am feeling, and secondly, to encourage myself and maybe others that rejection doesn’t need to define how you feel about yourself. Embrace the rejection!!

Embracing rejection to me means that no matter what the outside circumstances are, in this case not so favorable, that I can still decide my own worth. It can be hard, but it is important to realize that rejection is not always synonymous with failure, but yet can be a pathway on the road to success.

I actually can relate that to my job as a trainer, especially when I first started. In some regard, personal training in the commercial fitness world is all about sales. Selling yourself to the potential client with whom you would like to work with. But anyone in fitness and training can tell you that just because a potential client doesn’t decide to work with you, that doesn’t mean that you suck at what you do. I have been rejected plenty of times, maybe hundreds over the last 5 years, in terms of a prospect telling me that they can’t work with me for a variety of reasons. Maybe at first when I still was learning the training field, a rejection made me question myself. But fast forward to now, no rejection could ever make me question the knowledge, the experience, and the effort I put into being the absolute best trainer I can be.

If I can have that mindset in regards to personal training, why can’t I have that in every aspect of my life, professionally and personally? I know that I put in a lot of effort to be the best I can be, and even when things don’t go my way, knowing I did all I could should give me peace.

So I am choosing to embrace the rejection because it’ll only make me better and more prepared for the next opportunity that arises. I am choosing to embrace the rejection because it I know it does not reflect my self-worth. I am choosing to embrace the rejection because I know there is always a tomorrow.

And the circumstances of today don’t have to affect the way I approach my tomorrow!

Accountability

So I am excited to write this new blog post for you guys, but more so for myself. Because it is a topic that we all can relate to in different areas of our lives and one that I need constant reminding about. Accountability!! Thing is, accountability can be in reference to so many things that sometimes it can be hard to define it and try and make the broad meaning of the word fit into a box. A lot of people define accountability interchangeably with responsibility, however I tend to define it as an ability to claim your actions as your own and be able/willing to vividly discuss your reasoning behind them.

To hold yourself accountable, you must find the motivation to do difficult things, or in my case, find a way to NOT do some things that are difficult to avoid. In regards to me I know I need to amplify the urgency of the goals I set for myself, know why they matter, and understand how being accountable helps me become the kind of person I want to be and who God ultimately wants me to be.

Although I am saved, I remain imperfect and continue to be tempted by situations that are not in line with what I am working towards as a person. A verse I came upon that really reflects where I am at in life is Matthew 26:41. ” Stay awake and pray for strength against temptation. The spirit wants to do what is right, but the body is weak.”

If only you knew how accurately that verse personifies what my inner struggles are at the moment. It is a daily battle, and something that I need to consciously keep myself aware of and accountable for. I am thankful for friends, who when in a moment of weakness, I can turn to for guidance and truthfulness that will get me back on the right path.

Accountability to yourself doesn’t mean that you have to DO it by yourself. God puts people in your life that are there to help you when you can’t do it alone. Those people can serve as a messengers, encouragers, and even in some cases, admonishers if that is what is called for in the moment. I am so thankful to those in my life who will tell me like it is despite how hard the truth might be to hear, because I know in the end that they are just as invested in me as I am in myself. It is what drives me back to looking at myself in the mirror and taking accountability for my actions and my mindset so that I claim them as my own.

As I mention all the time, obnoxiously so sometimes, I am a Christian, and so I try and follow the Scriptures in my daily living as much as I can. And with that, accountability is incredibly crucial to Christian living because community is crucial to Christian living. But obviously, you don’t need to be a Christian to need accountability in life, this goes for everybody.

My goal is to not only be accountable to myself with the help of others but also to hold others accountable if they need help themselves. “Iron sharpens iron” as the Bible says and I think that is pretty accurate when describing the need for help and community. We don’t need less accountability, we need more! So for myself, I am trying to turn away from my selfishness and my pride and my supposed “self-sufficiency” and instead humble myself and use the wisdom of those put around me.. for they are one of many of God’s gifts!

“So then each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.”

Romans 14:12

What Is Your Anchor?

Well it’s been awhile since I have written on here, admittedly. Not because I don’t have a bunch of things roaming through my head that I wish I could vomit right out of my mouth, but because I am in the midst of a trial that has yet to receive its verdict. It is hard for me to write about situations I am currently in, because I can’t approach them rationally without my emotions about the situation shaping my thoughts. I think and write with a little more nuance after the fact than during, and since I am still trying to navigate my way through this particular season, I haven’t had the ability to write about it yet.

But what I can write about is how I am keeping myself grounded throughout this process. Instead of talking about the situation, I will talk about how I am able to focus on the day to day in order to survive this season. “What is your anchor?” is a question I’ve thought about a lot in regards to how I would answer that. A lot of times, I would first refer to my faith, something that is uttered so much by so many people that that answer is now probably cliche. However, cliche or not, it doesn’t take away from the fact that faith is legitimately a strong foundation for a lot of people, myself included. With that said, I don’t think I would refer to faith as my anchor.

I have developed a new approach to the question of what my anchor is.. which is that I don’t have an anchor of any kind at the moment. I know that sounds weird but bear with me as I try to explain this uncanny perspective I have.

Everyone is prone to look for anchors in their life, whether they realize it or not. Little things, big things, or anything in between to latch onto in order to feel grounded and safe from the dread of life getting away from you. Some may anchor to their childhood neighborhood because it makes them feel known for who they are, or maybe some people anchor themselves to their clothes and fashion because in that space it can make you feel strong and beautiful. Anchors are specific to the individual and each have their own reasons for one thing or the other being the anchor for them. Anchors are holds on our life, where we hold on to it and it holds on to us.

Personally, for me, it feels like my life has been un-anchored. What I thought I knew, I realized I know nothing about. Who I thought was reliable, turned out to be the furthest thing from it. At first, as things seemed to turn against me in this season, I felt pillaged by God. Robbed of what I held to be my foundation for so many years of my life. But now, I look at the things taken away and feel blessed by them. It’s a process that I am struggling through right now, but I am on the way to feeling more secure in myself than I ever have before.

None of this is by my doing, it is all God who set this in motion for me. To un-anchor and to find rest internally. Losing things and people who once were so important to me has gained me more intimacy with God, a deeper calling and a more peripheral vision of my life and what it’s supposed to be. I find my rest and my foundation in Him.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 62:5-6

Sometimes You Just Need A Break

Hello! Yes, I am still here. Been on a little hiatus from writing lately but I still have some things in the works. The hiatus got me thinking though, I needed a break from writing in order to regain the exuberance I felt when I first started this blog. So if I can do that with writing and recognizing when it times to relax a bit so that I can come back with a fresh view, why can’t I add that same mindset to my professional life?

The obvious places I go when I question that, are that I need money to pay bills, to buy food, to stay on stop of credit debt, etc.. But as I say that to myself, I am reminded of the old adage, “Work to live, not live to work”. And it is so easy in this day and age to feel like you need to work around the clock to provide the life you want. To a certain extent, that is definitely true, especially for myself and people my age who are trying to set up themselves for the rest of their lives. However, that doesn’t mean you should work yourself into the ground, it is possible to have that ambition while also picking your spots for much needed breaks.

That is what I am doing for the next week. I am taking off work for no other reason than to have a mental break and perhaps travel down south for a couple days. My body needs it and my mind needs it. It’s time to take a break from waking up at 430 or 500 in the morning everyday. It’s time to let my body rest and refresh in order to give my best self to all that I do. Specifically my individual clients and the class population deserve the best I can offer them because they rely on me session or every class. I can’t give my best self if I don’t give myself the best first.

We tend to think that we have to keep going every single day and we never take time to recharge our own batteries. Just know that it’s more than okay to take a step back, close the door, and spend time with yourself. To remember what it’s like to be in your own company.

That’s what I’m planning to do, if you can then I think you should to.

“Sometimes a break from your routine is the very thing you need.” – Unknown

Funny How Life Turns Out

Ask me 5 years ago where I thought I’d be at this point in life career wise. I very well could have answered that a few different ways but one thing I can say for certain is that I definitely wouldn’t have answered that question with the way my career ended up going.

I got a little nostalgic this week, coming up on my one year anniversary at my corporate fitness job in Washington D.C. A job that has opened new doors for me in a lot of ways and forced me to face new challenges that once upon a time I would have shied away from.

But when I got nostalgic, I took it back even further, to October 2013 when I first became a Personal Trainer. Understand that being a trainer was never something I ever imagined, or even wanted to do. My passion, since middle school, was becoming a Physical Therapist.

It’s a story I tell quite often, where in middle school I was playing flag football one day in P.E. class. And I’m sure my peers will remember those awful colored pinnie jerseys that we used to have to wear to distinguish teams, etc in class.. Long story short, a kid grabbed my jersey up near my collarbone and the jersey proceeded to wrap around my neck as he pulled back on the jersey and consequently, both my feet got caught in the ground as my back bent backwards. Thankfully that incident didn’t turn out as bad as it could have, but I still was strung with severe back issues throughout the rest of my youth.

When I got hurt, we were overseas, and access to a good Physical Therapists were not readily available at the time. So I spent about 2 months before summer break dealing with unimaginable pain, which probably didn’t help matters that we neglected it for so long. As soon as we got to the states, the first thing we did was enroll me into PT, to work on my rehab so that I could get back to doing what I loved most at that time, and that was playing basketball. I was obsessed with the game, and had dreams of playing in college one day. So to have that taken away from me was heartbreaking and frustrating and filled me with a lot of pent up anger. There was no love in my life that I experienced more so than the love of playing basketball, but eventually that prodigious love of basketball slowly turned into a love of something else: the human body.

I know that sounds absolutely weird to say, but it is 100% the case. I just remember how much pain I was in, and being a kid I felt like my world was ending, that I would never play basketball again. Of course, that was just the dramatic thoughts of teen kid back then, but still, doesn’t change the very real raw emotions I had.

So throughout that summer, my parents had me in therapy about 2 or 3 times a week, and over the course of the summer, I remember my pain dissipating slowly but surely. When I realized what therapy was doing was actually helping me, I became obsessed about learning how and why all that pain started to go away. All of a sudden I could function without spasms hitting me with every movement. I could bend over and touch my toes without sharp pain stopping me right in my tracks, and overall I just felt myself begin to get stronger and more functional.

Every time I went to therapy I would hit my therapist with questions about why we’re doing this or why we’re doing that! She had to have gotten annoyed with me but she would smile as she answered every question an intrigued young boy had. It was then that I realized I had a passion for learning about the body, that I was overcome with utter enthusiasm about how my body functioned and how to fix the multitude of issues it deals with. That’s where my love for anatomy and physiology started.

Fast forward to college, Liberty University, where I knew already what I wanted to study and eventually become, and that was a Physical Therapist. I came into my freshman year with my goals intact and a solid plan to follow, there was no way this wasn’t going to be my life. What’s that saying about how if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans? Crazy how true that is because my life took a detour and it seemed like God had better plans for me than I had for myself.

I realize I’m taking forever with this so I will spare the details. I’ll just say my freshman year was tough for a lot of reasons, but in regards to my studies, I came to realize that Physical Therapy was not an option for me. I had to pivot rather quickly to a field that still carried the aspect of learning about the body and all the things I grew up so curious about when it came to anatomy and physiology and using that knowledge to rehab people. So I settled into Exercise Science with a focus in special populations which allowed me to learn specifically about cardiac rehab and pulmonary rehab.

When it comes down to it, I just wanted to help people get better like I was helped to get better all those years ago. So as I graduated in May 2013 from Liberty, my sites were set on finding either an outpatient or hospital clinic to work with people who needed that kind of rehab. I was certain that THIS was what I was meant to do, and that I would find a job right out of college and get started on my next chapter in life. Welp, see above for God laughs at your plans comment because once again life did not go as I had planned it.

I moved back home to just outside of D.C. with my parents after school finished, and I spent months and months looking for a job. I must have applied to nearly 20 places, and only got maybe 3 interviews out all of them. Keep in mind, this was from May-October where I was sitting on my butt doing nothing but searching for jobs and nothing would hit. And the interviews I did get, they would say the reason I didn’t get the job was because they wanted more experience. I admittedly was frustrated because it was like, how do I get experience if no one will hire me to gain the required experience? It got to the point where I knew I needed to get my feet into the door somehow, and at least start making a little money as I continued my search.

That’s why I decided to apply to a personal training position at Sport & Health in Herndon Worldgate. I had no experience with training one on one, but I knew I wanted something in the fitness field to gain the experience I was lacking. My goal was to work with populations in a commercial gym that would mimic what I eventually wanted to do in cardiac and pulmonary rehab, which happens to be geared more towards an elderly population. So as I went into my interview at Worldgate and talking with the former Fitness Director there about my intentions, she directed me towards another gym nearby. That gym was formerly Sport & Health: Reston, now re-branded as Onelife Fitness. This is where I met the person who truly shaped the beginning of my professional career, Courtney Diep.

Back in 2013, I met Courtney as this super green but eager kid that was fresh out of college looking for an opportunity to get his foot in the field. She knew I would be a work in progress, but she gave me a chance anyways when a lot of people probably would not have. I honestly was a disaster for probably the first two years there, I think Courtney would admit the same. Even though the population was what I was looking for, I was extremely introverted and had no real confidence in my ability to actually train anyone effectively which diminished my ability to get clients or to train them effectively if I did happen to sign clients. I also was in the midst of one of the toughest stretches I had ever experienced health-wise and a lot of time I could have dedicated to the gym, I had to divert to my health. Considering all those factors, I did not bring in any real business for the gym for awhile and a lot of the clients I had gotten were given to me one way or another. It got to the point where me and Courtney had to have a real conversation about whether or not I should continue to work there.

I think when we had that conversation, that’s where my direction in my career really changed because my attitude towards it changed. I opened up to Courtney about my struggles, health and all, after a long time of keeping it to myself. One of the things I am most grateful for, is that she never really pressured me into giving her details about my situation at that time, but she respected my need for space when it came to my health. So when I finally opened up to her, it was such a relief to have her know everything and continue to have her support me through it.

I knew I had to step up and give her reasons to keep me even though I probably should have been fired way back. I decided to put my all into training instead of always trying to have one foot out the door looking for other opportunities. I got a new certification specifically for training from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, I decided to try and come out of my comfort zone and be more proactive on gaining clients, and I made sure I would watch other trainers like Danielle, Cesar, Courtney, and Simon, in order to learn from them. I owe a lot of my knowledge that I use to this day from those four people and I am thankful for them making me a better trainer. Thank you guys!

From then on, I continued to grow and find my rhythm, and it turned out that I became pretty good at this training thing. It also gave me what I had been wanting since I was that young middle school kid, and that was just to be able to help people physically like I was back then. That sense of satisfaction of knowing you’re making a difference in someone’s life is what I live for, it is what my life is and what I believe my life was supposed to be.

That was all back in 2015, and nearly 4 years later I am still at Onelife, albeit, on the part time basis now. But I can’t imagine not having some sort of connection there even though professionally I am now in the corporate fitness industry and gratefully expanding to bigger and better opportunities due to that.

But I won’t forget where I started, and the people along the way that continued to support me not only as co-workers, but now lifelong friends. For the third time, God laughed at my plan because He had a better one. A plan where all I wanted in my life, to help people, was achieved, just not in the way I had thought and thank Him for that.

To finish, I have to say thank you to one person in particular because without her I would not be in this position. So thank you Courtney, for taking a young kid who lacked experience in and under your wing. Thank you for the years of patience with me, as I continued to grow slowly into my own. Thank you for the faith in me, not giving up on the potential I had even though it took awhile to see it come to fruition. Thank you for your guidance and constant willingness to allow me to learn under you. But most of all thank you for the friendship we now have, one that I am always going to be especially thankful for. You are the best!

Me and Courtney at her baby shower jam celebrating her soon to be second child!